Janet on changes to family violence legislation

Janet on changes to family violence legislation

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Thanks Mr Acting Deputy President.
I’m very pleased to rise to speak to the Family Law Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures)
Bill 2017. The epidemic of family violence in this country is reaching crisis point.
It sometimes feels like we can’t go more than a few hours without hearing of a woman who’s
been murdered by a member of her family or hearing of a story of a woman and her children
being terrorised by their partner and father. Indeed, it was only a couple of weeks ago
that four out of seven of the top stories on The Age website—four out of seven—were
of women murdered by men, three of them by their current partner or ex-partner. We know
that domestic and family violence doesn’t discriminate. It affects people from every
walk of life. It disproportionately affects women. We know that domestic and family violence
is the No. 1 cause of homelessness for women and their children. We know that one woman
is killed per week, on average, by a current or former partner. So we need to say it like it is: this is an
epidemic. Women and their children are being terrorised in their homes—in the place where
we expect to feel the safest. Yet in the 2018 budget there was no new funding to tackle
sexual assault and male violence in the home. We still don’t have adequate funding for the
essential frontline services for people experiencing domestic and family violence—services which
cannot keep up with the surge in demand. You would think that, facing such an epidemic
of violence, the government would spring into action with a response that matches the scale
of the problem. Instead, what have we got from the Turnbull
government? We have an amendment to the Family Law Act that has no increase in resources
for its implementation. There is a lot of good in this bill. The aims of this bill are
good. But the practical effect of this bill will shift the existing cumbersome workload
from one court that has more work than it can handle to another court, and without any
extra resourcing. You cannot solve the epidemic of family violence by passing some amendments
to a bill without investing resources into implementation. Indeed, the Law Council of
Australia has said that because this bill doesn’t come with any increased funding to
state and territory courts, the changes proposed: (1) are unlikely to have any practical effect;
and (2) may result in list blow-outs in the children’s courts. This is what this bill
is going to achieve. This is what not increasing resourcing to family violence ends up achieving:
next to nothing. The Greens want to see our courts and legal
aid services appropriately resourced. They must be appropriately resourced to adapt to
the changes proposed by this bill. On top of that, the officers of the court must be
appropriately trained in family law. They must also be trained so they can appropriately
interact with children and young people, many of whom have experienced trauma. This requires
extra resourcing, but extra resourcing is not there as part of the legislation. Changing
elements of the law, as proposed in this bill, is a positive step, but it is largely redundant
if the courts and the legal services are not given the resources they need to implement
the changes and to do their jobs properly. One woman is killed per week, on average,
by a current or former partner. We must strive to honour their memories through action, and
that means investing in the legal services, investing in the crisis centres and preventive
programs that save lives, and improving and investing in the legal system and the courts
to ensure that survivors of family violence are given the safety and the justice that
they deserve.

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